Windows Phone 7 apps, stats and future

Justin Angel, a former Microsoft employee who worked on Silverlight, has posted his analysis of the 24,505 apps he found in the Windows Phone 7 marketplace, exploiting a loophole that lets you get the download links. A few highlights:

  • 97% of the apps are not obfuscated, meaning that it is trivial (with easily available tools) to decompile the source.
  • 90% are Silverlight vs 10% XNA. This is not so much an indicator of the popularity of the two frameworks, but more an indicator of how many apps are graphic-rich games rather than some other kind of utility. Of course if you are making a very simple app, Silverlight is easier than XNA, so that may be a factor too.
  • 99% are C# vs 1% Visual Basic and a smattering of F#. A fascinating stat that makes me wonder what is the future of Visual Basic.

There are more interesting stats about libraries and components used, for which I refer you to the original post.

Does it matter? Well, Windows Phone 7 has not been a big success so far, though the reasons for that are not so much the quality of the OS or the ease of developing apps, but rather its low profile at retail and the fact that most operators and manufacturers don’t really need it: Apple and Android between them pretty much have the market.

That said, there are a few reasons why Windows Phone or some evolution of it may yet be significant. Nokia is betting on it, and while Nokia is undoubtedly in difficulties, this must work in Microsoft’s favour. Further, fear uncertainty and doubt surrounding Android patent and copyright issues may persuade some industry players to give Windows Phone another look.

Perhaps more significantly, when Microsoft unveils its developer strategy at the BUILD conference next week, it is likely that the application model in Windows Phone, or some evolution of it, will integrate with what is planned for Windows 8. NVIDIA is already talking about how Windows 8 will run Windows Phone apps.

For these reasons I believe there is at least a glimmer of hope for Microsoft in the mobile world; certainly the developer story to be officially told next week will be an interesting one.

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2 comments to Windows Phone 7 apps, stats and future

  • Vic Klien

    This comment is a bit off the topic of your post. I’m a SL/WPF dev, so I follow Justin Angel, but I’m not “into” Windows Phone yet. My biggest reaction to Justin’s post, and this has been said before, is to his inappropriate use of Silverlight for his _entire_ blog. Here he’s using SL as an overall replacement for HTML, rather than for islands of interactivity in an HTML page or for applications. Rather than helping to promote a wider use of SL, this ironically screams out the limitations of SL for text/document rendering.

    There would be similar risks if you tried to stretch HTML+CSS+JS to write complicated applications. Hopefully the rumors are true and Win8 will also strongly support writing “new .NET” and unmanaged apps.

    Vic

  • Neil Hewitt

    Per Vic Klien above… I just had a look at the source ‘blog’ and I threw up in my mouth a little. It’s like someone took 1995-style personal home pages and re-made them with Silverlight. I haven’t seen anything quite so awful since the days of sites entirely built in Flash.

    That said, in my day job we tried to build some Silverlight controls as islands to plug into a Web app, and it proved such a complex task to get them to interact properly with HTML + JS that we eventually replicated that whole particular page in Silverlight, navigation and all. And it really sucks that we had to do that. We’re dumping Silverlight for HTML5 + JS in our next major version. I think Silverlight has found a home on WP7 that it could never really find on the PC.

    No surprise that the majority of WP7 apps are in C#. The typical profile of the VB.NET dev – basically still the same RAD line-of-business guy that used and loved regular VB – may be stereotypical, but it’s also pretty accurate. There’s little room for LOB stuff on phones – and if you were building such things, they wouldn’t be on the app store anyway. Most phone developers are independents or small shops, many are doing it in their spare time, many have backgrounds as Web devs in real life – some of my colleagues among them – and I think for these sorts of people, C# is the rule with VB.NET the rare exception.

    Everyone I talk to says that Windows Phone – especially with Mango – is a great platform; very usable, very slick in a quite un-Microsoft kind of way. Which is basically my opinion, and it’s the reason why I own an HTC HD7 and have done since launch. But then they go on to say that WP7 will never go anywhere because iOS and Android have carved up the market and it’s too late for an alternative. I think those people are underestimating the pace of change and the degree to which Microsoft will be willing to lose money on Windows Phone in order to gain market share over time. I remember a time when people said Windows CE (as it then was) would never succeed because Palm had the market sewn up. We all know how that went.

    As a platform, Android lacks the consistency of iOS and WP7. I’ve used a variety of Android devices and I’ve generally found them laggy (especially the so-called ‘tablets’), gaudy and a bit Fischer-Price. Going from one Android device to another can be as different as going from Android to another phone OS because there’s so many versions out there simultaneously, each with its own customisations or replacement UI. Other than a few Google fanboys, I don’t see any significant brand loyalty to Android; it’s winning because it’s cheaper than Apple but does most of the same things, and so lots of manufacturers have gotten behind it. It wouldn’t take much to change that. Many are already having to pay through the nose the for patent protection that Google will not provide.

    Microsoft clearly has a plan and hopefully by the end of this week, it’ll be a lot clearer. I’m certainly not writing off Windows Phone.